Photo: Great grandparents at their farm in Blandinsville, IL, with five of their six children .. my grandpa was yet a twinkle in grandma's eye. Stable boy and governess also pictured. Hodges farm, circa 1903-4

Tuesday, August 12, 2008

I've been so neglectful over here. You'd think I was up to nothing garden related. This is my first summer planting a veggie garden ... so I have no expertise to draw from ;) ... Just a blank mind, a blank plot of ground, and too much information from reading too many gardening books. I'm a hands on learner and have to experience the mistake of planting too many seeds too close together, or picking a spot that doesn't get enough sunshine. Not the brightest turnip in the patch you might say ... but, oh, once I get the hang of gardening through trial and error, I'll be shipping ya'all fresh produce by the bushel full. My goal is to keep a almanac of all things weather and garden related. My pop has just such a method that goes back years and years. Some skill he inherited from his parents. So far, I'm not too diligent about taking notes and I fear that next year, it may be back to the drawing board with a few new mistakes.

In April I planted a few different varieties of seeds indoors including: sweet peas, herbs, melon and tomatoes. Nothing but the sweet peas, basil and tomatoes survived. We had such an extended winter that the other plants got too leggy before the temps warmed sufficiently. I have found that it is much better to just wait and plant directly in the warm soil than waste too much time, money and energy on starting seeds indoors unless you have a green house, or perhaps expensive growing lights set up in the basement. I don't have the time or money for either, so will take my chances just planting outdoors next year.

The sweet peas take a very long time to mature and bloom. The package stated 120 days. I have no doubt that they took that long as the ones planted indoors in April just started blooming two weeks ago. I planted a bush variety instead of the type that grow on a net or fence. In May I planted nasturtium and have quite a few of the plants. The package stated they do best in poor soil ... that they got. Some did not receive enough sun ... others not enough nutrients ... the soil was VERY poor. Some have bloomed ... but not the large showy bushes with loads of blooms all at once. These plants have only a few blossoms at a time showing. The seeds are supposed to make good pickled capers. With such few flowers, I'd be better off just buying a jar at the market.

The veggie plot has six zucchini and three crooked neck yellow squash plants. I know, I know ... zucchini will be coming out my ears soon. I have tons of recipes and plan on freezing and pickling some of it. There are numerous tomato plants at various stages of growth. I hope to have loads of tomatoes to make salsa, tomato sauce, pizza sauce, and other sauces. Last year I chopped and froze fresh tomatoes for the deep freeze and canned salsa ... but not enough. I hope to have enough so as not to run out this coming year. To go with the tomatoes is fresh basil, thyme and Italian parsley. There are carrots, chives, cucumbers, lettuce, and some volunteer cantaloupe plants ... a gift from my compost pile ;).

To keep the deer and rabbits out of the veggie plot I have staked six foot gardening poles every four or five feet and surrounded the whole area with deer netting. The netting has yarn tied about midway up to help the deer steer away from the net. Most gardening books recommend a fence 8 feet high. Since this is not a very large garden, this height has worked so far. The plot started off about 8 feet by 12 feet ... and of the 'no dig' variety. this meant just that: NO DIGGING! You simply lay down a quarter inch of newspaper top it with good compost material. The squash was planted on mounds of compost. The tomatoes are staked with posts ... cages would have worked ... but I didn't have any. I surrounded the entire edge with some logs that were just cluttering up the back yard. It looks much like a raised garden bed. After this was planted I got ambitious and DUG up an adjacent area that had some thimble berries growing. The soil was very good and easy to dig. This area has the lettuce, carrots, herbs, and additional tomatoes (which I hope will mature before we get frost. The tomatoes I planted are Early Girl so they should be OK). My strawberries are now just ripening ... they are planted in strawberry pots. It will be several years before my blueberry, sour cherry, and apple trees produce more than a handful of fruit. But, oh, it will be worth the wait.


Pat said...

Looks like you've been very ambitious. We are 'trial and error' gardeners. If it didn't work well last year we either try to correct it, or move on! Our pole beans don't want to climb, they are producing large amounts of delicious green beans, but prefer to lay around in large clumps! Can't wait for the tomatoes to ripen...they are the grand prize!

Felisol said...

Mrs. Mac,
you are so thorough and neat in everything you do.
It's a pleasure reading about your achievements.
Intelligent and and the success sure lays in the details.
I'll have to consult you next year. I'm planning on growing tomatoes on our terrace. The only place warm enough on our land.
I so miss the taste of real tomatoes, not the tasteless and bloodless bought in the supermarkets.
How do you find time for all your activities?
I have to pick up some tricks.
Frozen tomatoes, that was an idea, now when they come cheap. Never liked the canned ones.
Sweet peas I have had quite often when my daughter was a child. They are easy, even with seeds.
Only thing is; let them have a couple of nights in lukewarm water before you sow on freeland. Then they start growing much faster.

You managed to get the snails away from the strawberries. Excellent.
I have one pot with strawberry plants hanging on the garage wall.
Only four berries so far. Forgot they need a lot of fertilizing, even in pots.
The deers are still staying in the woods 400 meters away. I don't want them to get nearer.
They are beautiful animals, but they don't belong in civilization.
Two summers in a row I've had to go on antibiotics, because I was bitten by infections ticks brought in the woods by deers.

Now, that's for the Norwegian wildlife department to decide.
can't wait to see your garden in full bloom next year.
Blueberries, cherries and apples, how good is that.
I find the blossom time best of all.
From Felsol